Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Diameter of the Bomb

I finished reading the report on the Gaza operation today; tomorrow I'll try to write about it. It's a fascinating document; if there was anyone out there who bases their opinion on Israel in facts, it would be a game changer. Since most no-one does that, however, preferring to base their opions on feelings or sentiments, the writing of it was probably mostly a waste.

So instead of blogging today, here's a poem by Yehuda Amichai:

The Diameter of the Bomb

The diameter oft he bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters
with four dead and eleven wounded
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometer,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won't even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making
a circle with no end and no God

from Yehuda Amichai, Poems of Jerusalem


Avigdor said...

the writing of it was probably mostly a waste

Yaacov, I disagree. I remember years ago when the "Israel Apartheid" crowd were fringe kooks, ignored by anyone of consequence. We used to laugh at them. They kept repeating the mantra, screaming loudly and vociferously when they had to, feigning pragmatism and realism when they needed to, published one "Human Rights Report" after another.

It's not so funny anymore. "Israeli Apartheid" is today a dominant narrative in the anti-Israel movement.

What we need is not one of these reports. We need 30 of these reports, 300 of these reports, 3000 of these reports. Where is the vaunted Israeli bureaucracy when we need it?

We need to saturate the opposition, the media, and public opinion with our reality, the way they have buried us with smears and half truths.

Does Israel not have enough bureaucrats to conduct enough reports? One may not be picked up by the BBC. Two may not be picked up by the Guardian. The 101st will be picked up by CNN, and the 325th will be picked up by the NYTimes.

More important than the reports themselves are the framework they create. The same way that anti-Israel opponents use reports on "Human Rights violations" and "Freedom Indexes" to legitimize their viewpoint, pro-Israel supporters can use a mass of such studies to create a foundation for changing public opinion.

It is very easy to make a statement that Human Rights Watch has published a study denouncing Israeli actions in Gaza as war crimes, when in fact the actual report makes unsubstantiated claims and merely asserts that Israel MAY be guilty of war crimes.

Such tactics force pro-Israel supporters on the defensive, forcing them into a more complicated position of actually explaining the totality of the report, its flawed premises, biased conclusions, etc. By the time they publish their OP Eds, the anti-Israel crowd is already busy waving around another "Human Rights Report".

This is a type of PR war of attrition. In the public discourse, to quote Rush Limbaugh, what matter is not the nature of the evidence, but the seriousness of the charge.

Anonymous said...

Good statement of the problem above, but I don't think you've got the right solution. On this point I'm with Yaacov -- there will be no persuasion with mere facts.

Publishing 30 or 300 documents that are fundamentally defensive in nature isn't a way to put your opponents on the defensive.

No, the way to alter the terms of debate, in my humble opinion, is to start attacking the enemy in PR terms, at high volume, and without "but-on-the-other-hand" balance. We are talking about a campaign that would be the mirror image of the "Israel is an apartheid state" narrative -- but with the virtue that it has a much stronger basis in fact.

That doesn't seem like much of a "Jewish" thing to do, at least from the vantage point of liberal Jewish America, but we are in a war (of guns, of words), and the best defense is in fact a good offense

When you have one side (the Arabs) saying that the Jews are to blame for anything and everything, without bounds; and the other side (the Jews) saying that, well, it's complicated, some of the problem is our fault, and there are merits to both sides' arguments, how do you think this looks to a (persuadable) outsider? The Jews are mostly at fault.

Avigdor said...

Agreed. I didn't mean to say that the reports should be defensive in nature. But we do agree that volume is the key?

Take Hamas in Gaza. Why isn't there an IDF report on Hamas activities being published once a week, with distribution to every news agency.

I don't mean just a listing of what Hamas is doing, of all the provocations and attacks, but a strategic essay examining what Hamas was trying to accomplish last week, how it fits into the group's overall strategy, etc.

This is something we need in the discourse, the Israeli perspective on security, the IDF view of our enemies. It doesn't have to include classified information to have an impact, to get our message out. The mere fact that something intelligent is being put out will put the focus back on why Hamas keeps scheming, keeps building tunnels under the fence, keeps stockpiling weapons.

Why is it always a surprise to the world when Israel fights back against a constant state of war being directed at it? Because the world only hears about this war when Israel fights back.

Release footage from IDF drones, and from Gaza's streets. Release intercepted telephone conversations between Hamas leaders. Humiliate them in front of their own people, much less the world media.

Secrecy works against us and for our enemies.

The question is, suppose someone launched such an effort. Who would stab them in the neck first? Hamas? Or JStreet?

Anonymous said...

I am not sure whether volume would do the trick, but ever since I first became aware of the difference in tone the star journalists use when reporting from outside or inside of Israel I think the problem is the amount of excitement available.
If you are a journalist being escorted to some person of eminence by slightly unpredictable men wielding guns it just makes a lot more interesting copy than visiting a sober official in an orderly office, or why else are these pictures of people in orthodox clothing are so beloved - exotism sells and apparently Israel has a too meagre a supply of it

These star journalists want to be seen as Teufelskerle (hotshot, daredevil, dare-devil, hell of a guy, hell of a fellow, devil of a fellow)
afraid of nothing willing to face any danger to bring messages from the "other" to us in the public.

Increasing the volume of the reasonable stuff will appeal only to a minority and bore the rest. It is adventure Israelis will have to offer like they did in the 50s when they managed to send us films which made farming look adventurous and highly desirable
- maybe a camel corps would help or dolphin whisperers or anything else, as long as it is wonder-inducing and outlandish but inspite of the animals who always generate interest adding a high-tech quirk would enhance the stuff and make it more Israelic

Somewhere I read that Livny had a PR-plan on the glamour track - would help a bit but probably does not get you one of these pieces of long journalism which are then quoted allover. Unless you could get someone as big as Karl Lagerfeld creating the buzz which creates awareness for the follow-up by a wave of Israeli talent.

Jon said...

Thank you for for the Yehuda Amichai poem. I was looking for this particular poem and your page showed up first. Yehuda Amichai is my favorite poet, and I think 'The Diameter of the Bomb' is one of his best poems.